The Experiences of Advanced Practice Nurses Caring for Patients With Substance Use Disorder and Chronic Pain

Barbara St. Marie, PhD, ANP, GNP, ACHPN

Disclosures

Pain Manag Nurs. 2016;17(5):311-321. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Management of chronic pain is a challenge shared by healthcare providers in various clinical settings. The epidemic of opioid misuse has escalated this challenge. A gap exists in understanding barriers and facilitators to practices of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) caring for patients with chronic pain and substance use disorder (SUD). The purpose of this study was to examine the APRNs' experiences while caring for patients with coexisting SUD and chronic pain to help envision better ways to manage pain and direct educational initiatives. Qualitative narrative method. Telephone interviews. Twenty APRNs caring for patients with coexisting SUD and chronic pain were recruited nationwide through the American Society for Pain Management Nursing list serve. Semistructured interviews with thematic analysis. Participants identified 1) a shift of patients from other healthcare providers into the APRNs' practices; 2) barriers to accessing nonmedical modalities for managing pain, including insurance coverage, geographic location, and the patient's desire for only medication management; 3) the role of the APRN in caring for this population contained subthemes of educating and guiding patients through a process of change, applying risk strategies to keep patients safe, and educating colleagues on implementing risk management strategies while prescribing opioids. The APRNs identified barriers to providing care for patients with coexisting SUD and chronic pain. They also described the role of APRNs in providing focused education regarding risk management strategies for assessment, prescribing opioids to manage pain, and minimizing risk.

Introduction

Management of chronic pain is a challenge shared by healthcare providers in various clinical settings. This challenge has escalated in recent years with the public health epidemic of opioid misuse. Healthcare providers experience pressure, concerns, and barriers when treating pain and while minimizing misuse of opioids. More than 200,000 advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) in the United States play a vital role in today's healthcare system. They are highly educated healthcare providers who work in all settings, including primary care. Their roles are to manage patients with acute and chronic health conditions through listening, examining, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, prescribing treatments including medications, and evaluating outcomes.

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